A French Sailor, 1897, by Christian Krohg (Norwegian, 1852–1925)
From Nasjonalmuseet, Norway

To stop sailing is no problem for those who are still young. They can find gainful employment on shore or put up their own business. But for some mariners who can no longer go to sea because of age or some disability, retirement can be a real challenge. It can be a time of loneliness and regretting, or of joy and contentment. The choice is up to the individual.

Then, when the mellowing years have made thee man,
No more shall mariner sail, nor pine-tree bark
Ply traffic on the sea…

— Virgil (70-19 BCE), “Eclogue IV”, The Eclogues

O blest retirement, friend to life’s decline,
Retreats from care that never must be mine,
How happy he who crowns, in shades like these
A youth of labour with an age of ease;

— Oliver Goldsmith, “The Deserted Village” (1770)

An old sailor snapped in Jackson Square, New Orleans, 1935
Photo by Ben Shahn (1898-1969)
From The New York Public Library

Make then an end of getting: know, the more
Your wealth, the less the risk of being poor;
And, having gained the object of your quest,
Begin to slack your efforts and take rest;

— Horace, The Satires, Epistles, and Art of Poetry of Horace, translated by John Conington (1874)


Work almost always has a double aspect: it is a bondage, a wearisome drudgery; but it is also a source of interest, a steadying element, a factor that helps to integrate the worker with society. Retirement may be looked upon either as a prolonged holiday or as a rejection, a being thrown on to the scrap-heap.

— Simone de Beauvoir, The Coming of Age (1970)


People often say to themselves in life that they should avoid a variety of occupation, and, more particularly, be the less willing to enter upon new work the older they grow. But it is easy to talk, easy to give advice to oneself and others. To grow old is itself to enter upon a new business; all the circumstances change, and a man must either cease acting altogether, or willingly and consciously take over the new role.

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Maxims and Reflections, translated by Bailey Saunders (1906)

Velho Mariheiro (Old Sailor), no date
Oil on canvas
Bertha Worms (French-born Brazilian, 1868–1937)
From Wikimedia Commons

Work, play – at sixty our powers and tastes are what they were at seventeen. Old men in the bad old days used to renounce, retire, take to religion, spend their time reading, thinking–thinking!

— Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1932)


An elegant sufficiency, content,
Retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books,
Ease and alternate labour, useful life,
Progressive virtue, and approving Heaven.

— James Thomson, from “Spring”, The Seasons (1792)


Beautiful music for retired sailors. Listen & download:

the piano of the old seaman

~ Barista Uno

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